So here we are. This is our first blog as a new theatre company and with our recent success of receiving Arts Council Funding to develop our debut show EDEN (Yes if you’re wondering we are still doing impromptu dances every time we remember this news), for some this is the start of our journey. However, this moment to us has been long-awaited for and a dream that on those doubtful, stressful, “is this actually any good at all” days seemed impossible.
Our actual journey began in 2009 when Mike and I first worked on a show together at East 15 Acting School in a piece of new writing. He replaced another actor who unexpectedly had to leave the production and as my directing debut, this upheaval left me on shaky ground. However, Mike’s positivity and talent as a collaborator put me at ease immediately; Within a few rehearsals I was determined that one day we would devise our own theatre together.
It has been said by those that know me that once I have an idea, I wont let anything get in the way of it, and I suppose in this situation, well it’s kinda true. Three years later Mike and I got married, and we began our plans to start our own theatre company sharing ideals of using theatre to raise questions about this ever-changing world.
Two days after our wonderfully fun and magical wedding, we flew to Thailand on a one way ticket to begin Displace Yourself’s journey. We didn’t know where in the world we would end up or what adventures were going to unfold, but we knew that we shared the same goal: We wanted to use arts as a way to contribute to vulnerable communities. It sounded simple and our excitement left us naive to the stories we would hear and the challenges we would encounter. Our travels led us to a community on the Thai-Burma/Myanmar border, a small town home to many refugees fleeing war and poverty in Burma/Myanmar. We ran drama classes in a local school set up by an NGO. For many of the children this was their first experience in “Theatre” and the first time they had heard the term “Actor”. To teach this entirely new concept to children in a class where the language was split between Thai, Mon, Karen and English was challenging at times, but to see these children enjoying expressing themselves through drama (for most their first time) was a delight and it was here I met some of the most inspiring people who have changed my world forever.
My frustration with the inequality people face everyday and the human suffering caused by power-hungry governments infuriated me as I saw the damage left by a country still full of despair. I was outraged (and I could write a whole other blog about this topic alone) but something very special about the positivity and endless courage in those who were living this nightmare was so beautiful, that it was more powerful than any corrupt government could ever be. This gave me hope. My anger became something else, a powerful devotion to do whatever I could to raise awareness of the suffering in under represented communities wherever they are in the world and ask questions about how we all can do our bit to reduce this suffering. This community has taught me that we all have the ability to make a difference, however sour a situation may be and however insignificant we feel; This is at the heart of what we want to achieve through Displace Yourself Theatre, and something we are trying to encourage through our Path To Eden Project.
We are about to begin a new adventure as we embark on our residency at ARC, Stockton Arts Centre tomorrow. I would be naive to think that the doubtful, stressful, “is this actually any good at all” days are now behind us, in fact they are only truly beginning. But as we venture into the unknown, the displaced yet powerful community in South East Asia taught me a lesson that I will hold close whenever things seem unreachable: To do great things, all we need is hope.